Norway's peace envoy opens talks with LTTE
Hanssen-Bauer, Oslo's newly appointed emissary, travelled to the rebel-held northern town of Kilinochchi for talks with the LTTE.india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 17:23 IST
Norway's new peace envoy opened talks with Tamil Tiger rebels on Wednesday as the Sri Lankan government's key electoral partner renewed calls for removing Oslo from the negotiations.
Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Oslo's newly appointed emissary, travelled to the rebel-held northern town of Kilinochchi on Wednesday for discussions with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), officials and the rebels said.
A Tiger website said Hanssen-Bauer was accompanied in a military helicopter by Norway's ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hans Brattskar.
The Tigers said he was holding talks with LTTE political wing leader SP Tamilselvan but gave no details.
The envoy's visit came as the government's main Marxist ally, the JVP, or People's Liberation Front, called for expelling Norway as a peacebroker.
JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa accused Oslo of bias in favour of the Tamil Tigers and charged that it could become the first nation to recognise a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.
"Norway will be the first country to accept them (Tigers)," Weerawansa said in remarks published in the Daily Mirror newspaper.
Norway rejects any allegation of favouritism toward the rebels.
The JVP call came after the government said Tuesday its peace moves had been boosted by local elections in which the JVP was routed.
Colombo's chief peace negotiator, Nimal Siripala de Silva, said he told Hanssen-Bauer on Monday that last week's win had strengthened President Mahinda Rajapaksa's hand in seeking peace.
Political analysts and local media have said the president might call snap parliamentary polls if the JVP tries to block efforts to end the festering ethnic conflict.
De Silva said he told Hanssen-Bauer there was no change in the government's goal of seeking to resolve the conflict through a negotiated settlement.
More than 60,000 people have been killed since 1972.
Hanssen-Bauer arrived on Monday on his first official visit to the island.
He will be joined on Thursday by Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim, who is flying in for discussions with Rajapakse on the truce talks, officials said.
The government and the LTTE held talks in Switzerland in February and agreed to meet again this month on salvaging their troubled ceasefire.